As a full-time pro bono lawyer with a major global law firm—DLA Piper—one of the highlights of my job is meeting and collaborating with innovative organizations around the world that promote pro bono in their local communities. This past April, I had the privilege of returning to Bogota, Colombia, to meet with some of my favorite pro bono innovators at Fundación Pro Bono Colombia and Universidad del Rosario. I was joined by Caroline Fish, a first-year associate in DLA Piper’s New York office who is spending 100% of her first year at the firm on pro bono matters. As Pro Bono Counsel with New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s non-profit global pro bono initiative, I have been lucky to work with Universidad del Rosario and Fundación Pro Bono Colombia since I joined the firm four years ago, and New Perimeter’s relationship with both organizations goes back even further, to 2013. During each of my visits to Colombia, I have been impressed by how rapidly the private bar’s commitment to pro bono has grown, due in no small part to the work of these two organizations.
The purpose of our visit was three-fold: (1) to teach law students about the access to justice crisis and pro bono efforts around the world; (2) to meet with pro bono coordinator colleagues at law firms in Bogota, Cali, and Medellin; and (3) to catch up with our colleagues—and Fundación Pro Bono Colombia supporters!–at DLA Piper Martinez Beltran to learn more about their most recent pro bono contributions.
During our visit we taught five classes on pro bono at the Universidad del Rosario. The focus was on our ethical obligation, as lawyers, to use our immense power as lawyers to fight for access to justice for everyone, regardless of ability to pay for legal counsel. We provided examples of DLA Piper pro bono around the world, including contributions by our lawyers locally in Colombia, as well as in a sampling of countries in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific Region. The students were welcoming and interested in learning about the many ways in which they can integrate pro bono into their legal careers. They were especially interested and inspired to hear from Caroline, who, as a first-year lawyer, discussed the huge impact that even a very junior lawyer can have through pro bono work.
Caroline and I also had the great privilege of meeting with Fundación Pro Bono staff, as well as pro bono coordinator colleagues from firms and corporations in Bogota, Cali, and Medellin. It was a great opportunity to share challenges in administering and promoting pro bono, as well as brainstorm potential solutions. Though we work in different countries, many of our challenges are similar, and it was a pleasure to share strategies.
We also had the good fortune to catch up with our colleagues at DLA Piper Martinez Beltran, who are enthusiastic supporters of pro bono and members of Fundación Pro Bono Colombia. I was so impressed to hear about their pro bono work. Every single one of their lawyers has at least one pro bono case, and they have been focusing their pro bono service on working with microentrepreneurs and local and foreign non-profits. They also recently sent a team to the Department of La Guajira where they provided pro bono legal services and other volunteer assistance to local residents and Venezuelan migrants. Their commitment to public service was inspiring!
I left Bogota feeling energized about our global pro bono movement and cannot wait for my next opportunity to return to Colombia and collaborate further with my fellow pro bono enthusiasts!
By: Crystal, Doyle